There are a lot of things going on during a yoga class. I’m not an instructor but I’ve practiced for over 10 years and it seems like there’s usually a formula to the class. Standing posture, balance, seated, inversions; that might be simplifying but it’s an observation. Inversions, gawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwd the dreaded inversion.
The first five years of my practice every time an instructor would say inversion and move to the wall my heart started racing. I was petrified and I’ve heard this from other yogis as well. When is the last time you went upside down in real life? I can’t remember until I got into yoga. I felt like I would topple over, even against the wall, as if some force would suck me up into the upside down world. In my head the entire time I would be cursing the instructor and rationalizing my fears, “what’s the point” I asked myself? Who cares if we get upside down, can’t we skip it, this teacher sucks!!! Basically I was in fight or flight mode and petrified. Every yoga posture has benefits and that’s what made me want to finally and very slowly begin to conquer my fear. First let’s take a look at what defines an inversion. An inversion is most generally categorized as any asana in which the head is below the heart. And while headstand, handstand, forearm stand, and shoulder stand immediately come to mind, there are gentler variations that may be more accessible for students early on in their inversion relationship: Down dog, standing forward folds, legs up the wall, and happy baby are lovely ways in which to get things moving in new directions without jumping in the deep end. The ones that made my heart race with great fear were headstand and handstand.
Why the heck do we want to get our head below our heart, shouldn’t it be floating above? Inversions reverse the blood flow in the body and improve Circulation-Work smarter, not harder! Use gravity to provide the brain with more oxygen and blood thus increasing mental functioning, and improving concentration, memory, and processing abilities. Increase immunity and prevent illness-The lymphatic system is a key player in keeping the body healthy. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Because lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity, getting upside down allows lymph to more easily travel into the respiratory system where much of the toxins enter the body. Energize-Feeling that 3pm slump coming on? Get upside down! Heating inversions such as handstand, headstand, and forearm balance get more blood moving to the brain, which results not only in physical invigoration but mental revitalization as well. Relax-while the heating inversions (handstand & headstand) energize, inversions of the cooling type (shoulder stand & legs up the wall) work to calm the nervous system, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system and producing feelings of balance and calm. Improve balance-up the anti! Once balancing on one or two legs has been mastered, the obvious next step is finding equanimity on hands and head. Increase core strength-shoulders and arms—especially for women who tend to be stronger in the lower body, inversions create body balance by developing upper body strength. Build confidence-while that first kick up into handstand might induce varying levels of trepidation, once we “get it”, that upcoming job interview suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting. Stay humble-and before we “get it”, those many attempts remind us of how much more we have to learn, and how truly it is about the said “journey”, not simply the destination. Inversions are fun-I know it doesn’t feel like it for a long time but inversions reintroduce us to our inner child and remind us that while yoga is a contemplative endeavor in many ways, the asana practice is also a time to be playful and light hearted!
In conclusion, there are a plethora of health benefits that can’t be ignored. As an Acupuncture Physician I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of neurodegenerative disorders in the last 10 years. I’m referring to Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Our health is much easier to maintain if we are proactive and attend to it weekly and inversions are a perfect example of having the power to do so.
To introduce you to the correct and safe way to tackle the inversion beast Justin Rockett and Zachary Mills will be offering their inversion workshop on August 20, 2016 called “The Handstand Refine, Align, and Play” from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 at Kodawari Studios 3965 S. Henderson Ave. Suite C Tampa, Florida 33629
Written by Kristen Carla Blogger/Acupuncture Physician www.facebook.com/kristencarla